|Time for the hot chili peppers||Apr. 13, 2003|
|Provided by: Sun Media|
|I love hot, spicy foods and really appreciate the fine flavours that herbs and spices can add to a meal. It's pleasing to know that these fine flavours may also contribute some healthy benefits to my diet.
Garlic, peppers, herbs and spices may all be part of the foods that help keep us healthy. Hot chili peppers are part of the health and flavour picture. Peppers get their heat from a compound called capsaicin. The hotter the pepper, the more capsaicin it contains. Capsaicin does more than just give food its flair. It is an antioxidant with possible cancer-fighting properties. It also helps reduce the nasal or sinus congestion of a bad cold. And peppers themselves are brimming with potassium and vitamins A and C. Some experts believe that eating hot peppers triggers the release of endorphins, powerful chemicals in our body that give us a feeling of well being. I love hot peppers in chili, salsas, sauces and stir-fries. Did you know that if you eat a pepper that truly makes your mouth feel on fire, you can douse that fire with milk or yogurt? Milk contains casein which helps to put out the flame. Yogurt does the same thing which is why yogurt-based dishes often accompany some of the spicier menu items. Although water may seem the logical choice, dairy is much more effective.
For thousands of years, garlic has been used for everything from curing a cold to chasing away vampires. These days, modern scientists are studying it closely as a player in the fight against heart disease, high blood pressure and even as a potential cancer fighter. Garlic contains a variety of different sulfur compounds and one in particular, S-allyl cysteine (SAC) has been shown to help lower blood cholesterol levels. Other studies suggest garlic may help lower triglycerides, blood pressure and may even help lower risk of some cancers.
How much should you eat? Well, nobody knows for sure but some feel that as little as a half to one clove of garlic per day has the potential for some health benefits. And there doesn't seem to be much risk with adding lots of garlic to your food except, for some people, stomach upset and, of course, garlic breath.
Researchers at the U.S. Department of Agriculture evaluated a number of culinary and medicinal herbs and found that many are packed with key antioxidants that can provide protection from heart disease, some cancers and some of the effects of aging. Among the herbs that were found to contain effective sources of these antioxidants were sage, dill, savory, coriander, thyme, rosemary and oregano, with oregano possessing the highest antioxidant activity. Not only were the antioxidant properties in some of the herbal extracts higher than reported values for vitamin E, they even beat out well-known antioxidant rich foods such as some vegetables. In addition, if you cut back on fat or sugar or salt, these herbs are a great way to add back any missing flavour.
While I'm not suggesting you forego your antioxidant-rich fruits, vegetables and grains in favour of a meal of garlic, peppers, rosemary and thyme, it is good to know that all these flavour boosters may help boost your health.
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